The upcoming NFL season doesn’t start for months but it never too early to start pinpointing the possible award winners for 2014.
MVP: Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
It would be easy to just pencil in Peyton Maning for yet another of these awards but given the schedule ahead for Denver, that won’t be the case this time. Meanwhile Aaron Rodgers lost most of his season in 2013 due to injury but thanks to a running presence from Eddie Lacy and hopefully a resurgence on defense, he’ll have the best shot win his second MVP award as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Of course health will be the most important factor.
Coach of the Year: Lovie Smith – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
During his nine seasons in Chicago, head coach Lovie Smith showed the consistent ability to get his players to play hard for him. There is no denying the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a talented team. With guidance from Smith their defense should make a significant jump in 2014. Doug Martin is returning to handle the running duties. If veteran Josh McCown can steer the ship properly, then the Bucs have a great chance to make noise in the NFC South. At the end of the day their turnaround will land Lovie his second Coach of the Year award.
Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham Jr. – WR – LSU
Obviously the quarterbacks and wide receivers are popular choices for this award year in and year out. However it’s not always about the biggest name when it comes to Rookie of the Year. It’s about who lands in the best situation. Eddie Lacy was a second round pick last year and won the award thanks to being surrounded by talent on offense (with an assist from the Rodgers injury). So who has a chance to follow in those footsteps? One name to keep a close eye on is LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Based on current draft projections, he has a shot to go somewhere in the second half of the first round. Teams like Philadelphia, Kansas City and San Francisco are rumored to have interest. Getting a chance to play in those systems with those quarterbacks and coaches is an ideal scenario for a breakout rookie season. Also don’t forget Beckham has return ability too.
Defensive Player of the Year: Von Miller – Denver Broncos
Suspension and then injury ruined the 2013 season for Von Miller as he watched his Denver Broncos come up short in the Super Bowl. He’ll obviously be motivated to return to form this NFL season but some new factor should help the cause. First is the presence of veteran star Demarcus Ware, who should provide pass rush from the opposite side, often giving Miller more one-on-one chances. The other is the additions of Pro Bowlers Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward in the secondary, who should force quarterbacks to hold the ball longer in the pocket. That means more sacks. Miller is 25-years old and entering his prime. The timing might be perfect for him to have a career year.
Comeback Player of the Year: Eli Manning – New York Giants
The 2013 NFL season for the New York Giants was one colossal disappointment. Eli Manning was at the center of it, throwing more interceptions (27) than touchdowns (18) for the first time since his rookie season. Now he’s coming off surgery in hopes of recapturing the form that helped his team win two Super Bowls since 2007. There are signs that a quick revival is in order. Free agency saw his offensive line get some improvement along with the running backs. No running game and no protection were big reasons why he struggled so much last year. The defense also got some notable help. If the Giants can crown their productive spending spree by getting Manning some extra weapons at wide receiver and tight end, he might become the second of his family to win Comeback Player of the Year.